REVIEW: ROYAL BLISS ACOUSTIC SET AT ST. BALDRICK’S EVENT

Royal Bliss were part of a local St. Baldrick’s charity event held at Brat Stop in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Prior to the band’s acoustic set during the evening, lead singer Neal Middleton was busy taking part in the annual shave. He had previously joined the 95.1 WIIL Rock Team to help raise money to fight children’s cancer. While most who participate in this fundraiser tend to shave their head, Neal chose to shave his beard.

Almost immediately after Neal was finished, someone in the crowd yelled out, “$500 bucks. Take the mustache off.” While Neal pondered the suggestion, money started coming in from the crowd. It didn’t take long before he had $500, and more, in his hand. After local morning DJ, Tom Kief, who also raised money for the event, had his head shaved, he did the honor of shaving Neal’s mustache. All in all, over the course of several hours, men, women, teenagers and children sat on stage to have their head and or beard’s shaved for a worthy cause.

After a short time to clear and set up the stage, Royal Bliss played an acoustic set, just over an hour and a half, complete with long time fan favorites, a couple of recently released new songs and two new covers. Each member of the band were mostly seated on stools while drummer, Jake Smith sat on and played a cajon drum box. While bassist Dwayne Crawford played electric bass, guitarists Taylor Richards and Sean Hennesy both played acoustic guitar, 6-string and 12-string respectively.

The night started with Drown With Me, with it’s catchy sing along chorus, from The Truth EP (2016) and Neal sporting a fake beard a fan had thrown on stage prior to their set. Their acoustic treatment of Save Me, a song that normally has a harder edge, is an excellent update and it still comes across with the same intensity as the electric version. Bleed My Soul, another song fans were more than happy to sing along with, has become a long standing favorite of not only the fans, but the band as well.

Over the years, Royal Bliss have often added cover songs to their set and at times they aren’t always songs you’re expecting them to play. The first of two covers that night was Forever Young by Rod Stewart. Not only does it lend itself to the acoustic setting very well, I feel it’s an excellent addition to their set. They continued with We’re All Living The Dream, another from The Truth EP. Prior to the song starting, there was a bit of musical chairs going on as Taylor and Sean switched seats to give Taylor a chance to play 12-string. The transition was seamless and once again, the crowd was more than happy to sing along to a song that paints the picture of summertime and hanging out with friends. Next was Into The Night, an unreleased song that, according to Neal, will be available in the coming months. The steady beat of this song grabs the listener from the start and holds on to them until the very end.

Their two most recent singles, Baby Just Hold On (watch their official video below) and These Days are perfect for the acoustic setting. To be honest, the songs on The Truth EP along with these two recent songs appear to be resonating very well with their audiences. While some are good time songs, I would have to guess, the others are hitting close to home as people can relate to their lyrical content. The surprise cover of the night came with U2’s Mysterious Ways. Not only did they nail it musically, they added a bit of flavor. During the breakdown of the song, Neal walked to the back of stage allowing focus on the band as they continued to play. However, as he came back, he walked over to Taylor who had positioned his guitar flat on his lap. Neal then proceeded to use his hands to beat on the top and sides of the acoustic guitar in rhythm to the song while Taylor contributed with his free hand. Sean was also tapping along in unison on the acoustic guitar now flat in his lap. Contribution from Dwayne was the same on his bass and when they were all combined with Jake on the cajon, it made for a very interesting segment in the song.

During a recent Facebook live video, the band sang All For Me Grog in a vehicle while traveling to the next gig. Neal mentioned it was a song they normally play for St. Patrick’s Day. As they played it at Brat Stop, this drinking song was not only fun, it seemed to go over pretty well with the crowd. The combination of Crazy, into Devils & Angels and Cry Sister is a heck of a combination. Even though these songs are from three different albums, based on crowd response alone, they are clearly well loved by their fans who were more than happy to sing along.

The night ended with the upbeat, twangy sounding Goin’ to Hell, which hardly sounded like an acoustic version and Royal Bliss’ most well known song, I Was Drunk, which included vocal help from Tom Kief. At one point, Neal asked the crowd to participate in singing part of the chorus by themselves, but truth be told, they had been singing along from the start. All in all it was a great night of music brought on by a great cause.

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